By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Caputo & democracy

Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The next 48 hours will be a crucial sequence in the 2020 election cycle, if not in American democracy. Last April, the White House installed Michael Caputo as assistant secretary of Health & Human Services for public affairs. Talk around DC was that Caputo, who authored the book "The Ukraine Hoax," was sent in as a Trump loyalist to the sprawling HHS to keep a tight leash on HHS Sec. Alex Azar.

On Sunday, Caputo posted a Facebook video (since removed) in which he accused CDC scientists of "sedition" while elements of that agency have become a "resistance unit" against President Trump. "You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo said in the video in which he describes long shadows growing on his ceiling. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin. The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.” 

To put this in context: If the head of Indiana's FSSA under Gov. Mitch Daniels had posted such a video, I can guarantee you that a deputy chief of staff named Eric Holcomb would have been at his/her door seeking a resignation by EOB. HHS put out this statement on Monday: “Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.” If Caputo is still employed at HHS on Wednesday, all bets are off on the 2020 election and the revered peaceful transition of power.

2. Indiana COVID updates

Chief Justice Loretta Rush becomes the top Hoosier official to be infected with COVID. The Big Ten presidents and chancellors have not made a decision on whether to restart the football season in October, after meetings on Sunday and Monday. The Columbus Republic  reports that Bartholomew County (home to Vice President Pence) health officials are warning of a "catastrophic" spike in COVID cases later this fall when flu season arrives, particularly "if people flout public health guidance aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and keeping their distance." President Trump held a mostly maskless indoor MAGA rally with virtually no social distancing in Arizona Monday night. Morning Consult polling reveals that just 34% of Americans (including 51% Republicans and 21% Democrats) are comfortable dining in a restaurant due to the COVID threat, down from 41% in late May.

3. Vaccine eligibility

NWI Times: Indiana health officials are developing the criteria they’ll use to decide who’s entitled to receive a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available. It reports that if the vaccine is distributed to each state based on its share of the U.S. population, Indiana might receive only 300,000 doses initially for its 6.7 million residents.

4. Braun rejects COVID aid to states

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun told Indiana Public Media why he opposes COVID relief funds for Indiana and local governments: “I think we’re sitting on all the money that was given to us by the federal government because we have not had to use it. We will make it through it based upon how we’ve lived our life in a responsible way, as a state government." WANE-TV: Due to a depleted trust fund used to fulfill unemployment claims, Indiana plans to start borrowing federal funding in the coming weeks. The fund is as low as $70 million and is expected to run out in the next two to three weeks.

5. Trumped science

The Western U.S. is burning at historic rates in a reprise of Australia and the Amazon earlier this year, Cat 2 Hurricane Sally is expected to dump two feet of rain on the Gulf Coast and there are an unprecedented five tropical systems churning in the Atlantic basin. Worldwide temperatures were up +.24 (C) in the 1980s, +.38 in the '90s, +.57 between 2000-09, and +.74 over the last seven years. With the smell of wildfires in the air, President Trump said in California Monday: “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.” When a state official pushed back, saying that he wished the science agreed with the president, Trump countered, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” Democrat challenger Joe Biden called Trump a "climate arsonist."

It's The Atomic!